UFC 223 succeeds despite McGregor's debilitating bus assault on media day
UFC 223 was set to be one of the best fight cards of the year. Led by the main events of Tony Ferguson versus Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rose Namajunas versus Joanna Jedrzejczyk, all was going well up until the week before the April 7 fight date at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The first sign of bad news came on April 2. News from Dana White, the president of UFC, emerged early in the morning that interim lightweight champion Ferguson suffered an LCL injury and would not partake in the fight.
As the news about Ferguson broke, White also named the replacement for the fight. Nurmagomedov’s new opponent would be current 145-pound champion, Max Holloway.
Hawaiian-born Holloway had previously expressed his interest in moving to a higher weight class due to his difficulty in cutting weight to reach 145 pounds.
He did not hesitate when asked to fight for the 155-pound title, even though it was on short notice against the very dangerous and undefeated Nurmagomedov.
The UFC always prepares for this possibility and usually has backup plans in the event that a fighter cannot compete anymore. But for this particular UFC fight, no such backup plan existed for the events that unfolded on the morning of April 5 at the Barclays Center.
The incident in question followed the media day stare-down between all the fighters. Immediately following the stare-down, UFC’s biggest star and global icon Conor McGregor snuck into the Barclays Center. McGregor then ambushed the fighters that were taking buses to the event.
Right away, it was clear that McGregor was trying to get to Nurmagomedov, who had his own verbal altercation with McGregor’s good friend and sparring partner Artem Lobov earlier in the week.
The altercation on the buses included McGregor screaming and demanding for Nurmagomedov to get off the bus until his patience ran thin and he threw a dolly through the window of the bus, puncturing the skin of 155-pound fighter Michael Chiesa and damaging the retina of 135-pound fighter Ray Borg.
Both of the injured fighters were forced to be taken off the event card due to their injuries. Lobov, who was scheduled to fight Alex Caceres, was also taken off the card due to his involvement in the incident.
When the UFC thought they had seen it all, further problems arose on the morning of April 6 at the weigh-ins.
Holloway was nowhere near fighting weight and was deemed medically unfit to fight.
After all the drama and change of events, Nurmagomedov told the UFC that he still wanted to fight and asked the UFC to find him another opponent.
The new opponent would be fellow 155-pound fighter, Al Iaquinta. Iaquinta, a Long Island native and part-time real estate agent, was moved from his fight with Paul Felder up into the main event slot.
Despite all the drama throughout the week, the UFC still managed to put on a successful night of fights.
Nurmagomedov became the undisputed lightweight champion and moved to 26-0 following a dominant five-round performance over Iaquinta.
Namajunas defended her women’s strawweight title in a rematch against longtime champion Jedrzejczyk. While Zabit Magomedsharipov and Kyle Bochniak’s fight was decided by a decision, in what would be the eventual “fight of the night.”
Magomedsharipov became the eventual victor. The UFC now makes a quick turnaround in the tri-state area at UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City on April 21.